Real California Coastal Road Trip

Trip Code: SIYC

Why we love it

Behold the beauty of Big Sur as you drive along California’s northern coastline, stopping to see the magical McWay Falls located on a beach that’s closed to public access., Ride Ferris wheels, rollercoasters and other fairground delights during stops at Santa Monica Pier and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk., Rub shoulders with Hollywood royalty – or at least their lookalikes – as you begin your journey in the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, visiting the vibrant Venice Beach., Sleep under the stars in Monterey and along California’s Central Coast, getting up close to Mother Nature as you join in on the communal camping experience., Join in on the optional food kitty with your fellow travellers and enjoy camp cooking and picnic lunches while keeping costs down., By travelling on this trip, you’ll learn about our Intrepid Foundation partner, the Grand Canyon Conservancy. Donations help them protect Grand Canyon National Park and support trail restoration, conservation of native plants and wildlife, and educational programs. Intrepid will double the impact by dollar-matching all post-trip donations made to The Intrepid Foundation.

Is this trip right for me?

This trip includes time spent travelling in a private vehicle with your group. Extra space can be tight, and conditions may feel a little cramped. It’s all part of the adventure and a great way to get to know your fellow travellers. Please read the itinerary carefully for travel time estimates.

Although our private vehicles do have air conditioning, it has to work pretty hard to keep a full group cool. Expect to feel hot during summer and cold at other times of the year, especially at night. Please consider the season and research the weather conditions to determine the best time to travel for you. Remember to come prepared with adequate clothing.

This trip involves either a partial or full camping experience, giving you access to more remote destinations at close proximity, and the joy of camping under the night skies and beside a campfire. This is a participatory trip – a fancy way of saying you’re not just along for the ride, but you are part of a team! Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and help out with camp activities like food prep and washing up. It’s all about giving your new travel mates a hand, and everyone knows there’s nothing worse than trying to put up a tent on your own!

From gorgeous coastal hikes to the hilly San Francisco, this trip can involve a lot of walking. Please ensure you bring sturdy walking shoes and comfortable clothes. To make the most of the trip, it's best if you have at least a moderate level of fitness.

If you have more time to spend in the region, check out our Epic American West trip:

Important information

1. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1 in Los Angeles and finishes on arrival into San Francisco at approximately 5pm on Day 4.
2. In Los Angeles the group will be in 8 and 6 person dorms, with shared bathrooms. The hostel will do their best to separate the group by gender, but it's not guaranteed.
3. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip however excludes night 1 (Los Angeles) where you will be in shared accommodation.
4.The arrival time back into San Francisco on the last day depends on each group, but if you decide to fly out on this day, please don't book a flight before 9 pm.
5. A sleeping bag is required for this trip.
6. Please note that the legal drinking age in the US is 21 and in some parts of Canada it's 19.

What to bring/pack

We will provide tents, basic sleeping mats, camp kitchen essentials, camp chairs and campfire supplies.

All luggage is carried in trailers or inside the vehicle so please don't bring more than one medium sized bag, backpack or suitcase (20kg/44lb maximum) per person. Your suitcase/rucksack may get some rough handling, so make sure it's a tough one. A small daypack with your water bottle and camera may be carried with you inside the vehicle.

If traveling in shoulder season (April, May, September, October), please be prepared with extra cold weather clothing as temperatures can dip below freezing at night. Even during summer months it can get quite cold overnight, especially in desert and mountainous areas.

 Sleeping bag. Please bring one from home or you can purchase one before your trip starts - you may not have time once we're on the road. Sleeping bags can easily be bought in the US and Canada at big stores like Walmart and Target or at sports and camping supply stores like Mountain Warehouse in Canada or REI in the US. As we offer trips throughout the year and travel in diverse climate zones, we recommend you carefully consider the weather and choose an appropriate sleeping bag. Please bear in mind that nights can be very cold even in the warmer months. We can experience temperatures as low as -5C and even snow. If you choose to purchase a sleeping bag during your trip, please consider donating it to a secondhand shop or homeless shelter before you return home.
 Towel
 Travel Pillow
 Reusable water bottle. We recommend at least a 1.5 litre capacity. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. Tap water in the US is safe to drink and there are many places to fill up along the way, so please save plastic by bringing your own water bottle.
 Sun protection - hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
 Quick-drying, breathable clothing you can layer. No matter the season, you should be prepared for changing temperatures and weather conditions. Make sure to have a warm outer layer even in summer months as well as a waterproof jacket.
 Closed-in hiking shoes. We highly recommend that you take a pair of comfortable, closed-in/closed-toe hiking shoes. Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through bush/grass-lands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings from dangerous animals in this environment.
 Personal travel documents which may include a passport, visa, driver's license, travel insurance, flight tickets and your Essential Trip Information. Photocopies of these documents stored separately from the originals will be handy. While not valid, a photocopy of your identification makes it much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.

 Cell phone, camera with spare batteries, charger, and power/plug adaptor (Types A & B are used in the USA. Voltage is 120V). Some of our vans have USB-2 style charging ports inside.
 Insect repellent (insects are present intermittently all over the USA and Canada depending on recent rainfall.)
 A cotton bandana or scarf. Can be wetted and worn around the neck to facilitate evaporative cooling in dry and hot conditions, used as sun or dust protection, or used to protect your neck and head from cold
 Head torch/headlamp
 A simple plastic bag/waterproof toiletry bag (that can hang on a nail on the back of a door) will be useful to keep your clothes dry inside basic camp shower structures.
 Swimwear
 Shower shoes – rubber sandals to be worn while in camp showers
 Personal medical kit. Your guide will carry a large kit but we recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes, anti-diarrhoeal, antibacterial gel, wet wipes, bandaids/plasters etc.

 Sleep sheet. If you are travelling during the hot season you may wish to also pack a sleep sheet so you will be comfortable no matter what the weather.
 Thermarest. While we provide a basic camping mattress for each client, some travellers find they like the extra comfort of a double layer.
 Lip balm and extra moisturizer if traveling to arid desert areas.
 Ear plugs to guard against a snoring tent-mate
 A good book, a journal or headphones to listen to music with.

If you need some further tips for packing, you can always check out our ultimate packing list here:,

Physical rating


Many of the North American national parks that we visit have hiking opportunities where walks up to 4 hours can be an option for you. There are often easier options too.

Joining your group

HI Los Angeles Santa Monica Hostel, 1436 2nd Street, Santa Monica, Santa Monica, 90401, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Just blocks from the beach on LA’s trendy West Side, HI Los Angeles Santa Monica hostel is the perfect spot for living the California dream. Your accommodation is a few minutes walk to 3rd Street Promenade for shopping, the famous Santa Monica pier for social media shots and easy enough to grab a bike and ride to nearby Venice Beach.

Heading to the beach? The hostel has beach towels and volley balls for guests to use. A guest kitchen is open for limited meal prep if you want to eat in. Free WiFi, smart showers, game room and an outdoor courtyard are just some of the features you will find.

Alternate Joining Point

Joining instructions

The hostel can easily accessed from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). A taxi to the hotel will cost approximately $55-$75 USD one way depending on traffic.

For a less expensive transfer, the Big Blue Bus (BBB) has an available route linking LAX to Santa Monica. BBB Route 3 departs from the LAX City Bus Center, about 0.5 miles/0.8km from the airport terminals. To reach the terminal, as soon as you collect your luggage, exit the Arrivals Hall and catch the free airport Shuttle C heading to Lot South/LAX City Bus Center. Shuttles are marked with a pink sign and run on a 15-20-minute frequency.

Once you reach LAX City Bus Center, catch BBB Route 3, which is available from Monday to Friday from 05:04 am to 10:53 pm and on weekends it runs from 05:41 am to 10:54 pm. Buses run every 13 minutes and take approximately 30 minutes to reach Santa Monica in light traffic conditions.

Disembark at Downtown Santa Monica Station. From there, your hostel is a 10-minute (0.8km / .4 mile) walk.

The BBB tickets cost 1.10$/1/03€ if you opt for a mobile or TAP payment and allow free transfers with any other BBB line within a 2-hour period of time. Please note that TAP Cards are reloadable cards costing 2$/1.88€. They can be bought online, through the TAP App, or from the station’s automatic vendors.

Finishing your trip

HI San Francisco Downtown Hostel, 312 Mason Street, San Francisco, 94102, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Phone: 415 7885604

Close to Union Square, HI San Francisco Downtown hostel is at the center of everything you want to see and do in the city. Nearby bus and subway lines make it easy and cheap to get everywhere you want to go, whether you’re after tacos and street art in the Mission District, or sunshine and culture in Oakland, or are just looking to catch your flight home from the airport.

Alternate Finish Point

For trips departing on the following dates
use this finish point.
23 May 2024 (SIYC240523)
25 Jun 2024 (SIYC240625)
12 Jul 2024 (SIYC240712)
16 Aug 2024 (SIYC240816)
23 Aug 2024 (SIYC240823)
02 Sep 2024 (SIYC240902)
06 Sep 2024 (SIYC240906)
13 Sep 2024 (SIYC240913)
San Francisco

San Francisco

Meals & dietary information

Breakfasts included: 

Lunches included: 

Dinners included: 

While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader or local representative will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. If you have dietary requirements and/or food allergies, please let your booking agent know prior to departure.

On our camping trips in North America, we operate an optional kitty, where travellers are encouraged to contribute to a central fund which is used to buy groceries which then supply meals to the entire group. More details of the estimated costs and exclusions can be found in the Money Matters section.

Buying and cooking the food, washing up, etc are shared amongst everyone on the trip. Teams of two people will carry out the camp duties on a rotating basis. On camping nights, we usually cook our evening meals together on our own stove, or barbecue food over the camp fire. We usually prepare salads, grill meats and cook pasta, rice and vegetables. For breakfast we usually buy milk, coffee, tea, cereals, bread, jam, butter etc.

Travellers with special dietary requirements may prefer to opt out of the kitty, purchasing and preparing food that is suitable to their individual needs. Our leaders are experienced with adapting to dietary restrictions so please speak with them before opting out if you have concerns about suitability for your needs.

Climate & seasonal information

Due to the size and topography of the US and Canada, there's a huge amount of variation in the climate. We recommend you consider both the season and the part of North America you intend to visit, so that you can best pack for your adventure. We recommend you check the weather in your destination 10 days prior to your arrival to help guide your packing choices.

California has several distinct climate regions, so conditions can vary significantly depending on where you're visiting. The state is typically divided into the coastal regions (Los Angeles, San Francsico), the Central Valley (Sacramento), the Sierra Nevada Mountains (Yosemite & Sequoia National Parks), and the desert areas (Death Valley National Park & Mojave Desert).

Coastal Areas:
Coastal regions, including cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, have a Mediterranean climate. Summers are generally dry, with daytime temperatures ranging from 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C). Winters are mild and may be rainy, with daytime temperatures around 50°F to 65°F (10°C to 18°C).

Central Valley:
The Central Valley, which includes areas like Sacramento, experiences hot, dry summers with temperatures often exceeding 90°F (32°C). Winters are cool and damp, with temperatures averaging around 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 15°C).

Sierra Nevada Mountains:
The Sierra Nevada Mountains, including Yosemite & Sequoia National Parks, cover a vast area with varying elevations, which significantly impacts the climate. Summers in lower regions like Yosemite Valley are warm, with daytime temperatures typically ranging from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C). However, temperatures decrease as you gain elevation. Fall brings milder temperatures with highs from 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 27°C). Winters can be cold, especially at higher elevations. You can expect daytime temperatures of 40°F to 50°F (4°C to 10°C), while high-elevation areas receive snowfall. In Spring, temperatures are warm with daytime highs of 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C). In mountainous regions, spring brings melting snow, leading to higher water levels in rivers and streams. Snow can keep mountainous roads like the eastern entrance to Yosemite, Tioga Pass, closed through June and even into July in particularly snowy years.

Desert Areas:
Regions like the Mojave Desert and Death Valley are hot and arid, with summer temperatures often surpassing 100°F (38°C). For safety reasons, we will not enter Death Valley National Park when temperatures are too high and will find an alternate route to our next destination. Fall (September-November) temperatures drop to the 90s°F (32°C) and 100s°F (37°C). Winters are mild and pleasant, with daytime highs ranging from 60°F to 70°F (15°C to 24°C). Nights can be chilly. Spring is a comfortable time to visit, with daytime temperatures in the 80s°F (27°C) and 90s°F (32°C).

The following national holidays are observed in the US, which can affect our itinerary as traffic can be extreme, and shops, restaurants and attractions can be closed:

New Year's Day (01 January)
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday of January)
Washington's Birthday (third Monday of February)
Memorial Day (last Monday of May)
Independence Day (4 July)
Labor Day (first Monday in September)
Columbus Day (second Monday of October)
Veterans Day (11 November)
Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday of November)
Christmas Day (25 December)

In case of emergency

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time.

For general contact details please use the following page:

In case of an emergency, local authorities can be contacted by calling 911 – this is the toll free phone number for the police, fire department and the ambulance in the USA and Canada. In case of doubt, call the operator on 0.

In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local office on the numbers below:

Intrepid local operator : Available for phone call on +1 415 642 7378, option #5


The campsites that we use are selected for either their scenic beauty, their convenient location to places of interest and/or the facilities available. We aim to offer you a selection of different types of campsites.

If you've never camped before - no problem! We provide a complete set of camping and cooking equipment. This includes roomy easy-to-pitch tents, which are shared by only two people and are equipped with thin foam rubber mattresses and vinyl floors. Your leader will show you how to pitch a tent on the first day. On many trips we also spend a few nights in reasonably priced hotels/motels/hostels (as per the itinerary).

Remember that sleeping bags are not provided. Check out the Packing section for more information.

You'll find the necessary facilities - toilets and in most cases showers, washing machines and dryers - at many of our campsites. The showers at some campsites only have cold water available and some may require a payment (usually no more than US$1-$3 for a quick shower). This is payable locally and is a contribution towards the cost of a limited water supply. Some campsites won't have any facilities, but this will rarely be for more than one night at a time. This is true of many campsites within Yosemite National Park, so if your trip is visiting this park, please prepare to go without a shower on this night, although it can often be arranged to stop and utilise facilities on our way out of the park.

In all campsites there are strict quiet hours when no loud noise is allowed. This means that all music, singing and group gatherings must stop. We request that all our travellers respect these campsite rules.

For trips where there are lodges/cabins used, couples travelling together may be separated as our rooming arrangements are based on single gender.

Our high-quality camping equipment (including tents) can be affected by bad weather conditions. This can result in some wet and cold conditions inside the tent. Your spirit of adventure and flexibility will help make your adventure trip an exciting and unforgettable experience. On nights where the group is camping, and weather conditions are extreme (such as snow or heavy rain), there may be an opportunity for the group (if everyone agrees) to stay at an alternative location such as a nearby hostel or hotel. When this is the case the upgrade is at your own expense.


Our large fleet of 15-passenger vans are fully equipped with air-conditioning system, V8 engines and any camping or cooking equipment needed for your trip. Most have cloth-upholstered seats and carpeted interior with radio or CD players. Your luggage is typically transported in a trailer which is towed behind the van.

The vans are regularly serviced by a well-established network of maintenance and service facilities throughout the continent. However, unforeseen maintenance problems can still occur while on the road and we appreciate the patience of our travellers as we make necessary repairs as quickly as possible.

While your group will have a van for all included activities on the trip, the services of the van and leader may not be available for your use during free time, or after you have arrived for the day. If you need a special trip into town you may need to arrange transport or a taxi.